About etiquetteer.com

Etiquetteer is known socially as Robert B. Dimmick. A native of Louisiana, Mr. Dimmick emigrated North for education, finally settling in that Athens of America, Boston, Massachusetts.

Mr. Dimmick spent his childhood attending weddings, reading Emily Post’s Etiquette, and being teased and taunted by other children for minding his mother, taking everything the preacher said seriously, and generally being a Good Boy. This ultimately led to an aversion to organized sports, television, and popular culture in general, and definite opinions about everything from restaurant dining to wedding dresses to historic preservation. Mr. Dimmick believes in the sartorial legacy of President Harry S Truman, getting out of the way of oncoming traffic quickly, and the tasteful expression of free speech. He is, all too often, willing to express an opinion on just about anything.

By day, Mr. Dimmick plans class reunions for one of those great big universities. By night he enjoys club openings, dinner parties, memoirs of the Fabulous, yoga, the music of the American songbook, and spirited conversation with friends. He invites you to behave with Perfect Propriety whether you want to or not.


Etiquetteer at Random, Vol. 14, Issue 8

March 3rd, 2015 . by Etiquetteer

Perhaps it’s just the weather, but Etiquetteer has become something of a magpie, hopping from one shiny observation on manners to the other:

  • The Perfectly Proper place for a table knife is to the right of one’s dinner plate, not in the center of the back of one’s dinner partner, and certainly not in one’s host’s back.
  • Mourning should show respect for those being mourned, which means that those wearing mourning need to look put together. Just tossing on everything one owns that is black will not do. It must be appropriate to the occasion and with the other garments worn at the same time.
  • One of the most Perfectly Proper talents one can cultivate is that of changing the subject when controversial topics, or even topics on which people might disagree with more Heat than Perfect Propriety, come up in conversation.
  • Sometimes Etiquetteer is tempted to ask Incessant Texters “If you were with the person you’re texting now, would you be texting me?” But that’s not very Perfectly Proper . . .
  • Last month after Etiquetteer’s very successful talk, “Evolution of the Dinner Party 1860-1954″ at the Gibson House Museum, a member of the audience asked when, during that time, guests might inform hosts about allergies and dietary needs. The answer, of course, was “Never.” These days the shoe is on the other foot, and it’s no wonder the amount of entertaining conducted in homes has declined. No host can be a short-order cook, nor should be.
  • Etiquetteer hopes all the ladies are preparing their pink mohair coats for spring.
  • The practice of making multiple, simultaneous reservations and different restaurants “because I don’t know what I’ll be in the mood for,” is Absolutely Outrageous and needs to be stopped. Certainly some restaurants have taken to shaming no-shows publicly on the internet (about which Etiquetteer feels ambivalent), but one solution would be for those online reservation websites to prohibit multiple simultaneous reservations from the same diners.

Finally, Etiquetteer can only wonder what misuse of the plumbing led to the posting of this sign: “This sink is for hand washing only. No other articles can be placed inside or on this sink.”

Blizzard Chic, or Perfect Propriety in Adverse Conditions, Vol. 14, Issue 7

February 9th, 2015 . by Etiquetteer

At the moment, New England is receiving an historic amount of snow that is compromising just about everything: safety, public transportation, education, business, general daily life, and, alas, Perfect Propriety. Beth Teitell of The Boston Globe has written an interesting article about how Bostonians are dressing to accommodate both professionalism and the weather. Etiquetteer must bow in admiration to Professor Rictor Noren of the Boston Conservatory, who defiantly commutes on foot dressed as a gentleman in this dreadful weather. His omission of a hat - any hat - is certainly too imprudent for Etiquetteer, and Etiquetteer trembles for the fate of his dress shoes in the absence of boots (Ms. Teitell doesn’t indicate if Professor Noren wore rubbers over them; Etiquetteer certainly hopes he did). But one must admit the professor sallies forth with complete confidence, and that is how one projects Style.

Etiquetteer steadfastly believes that one does not have to compromise one’s professional appearance for the sake of warmth or, indeed, preservation of one’s wardrobe from destruction. One need not confine oneself to choosing between looking like a slob and looking like Carly Fiorina. What Ms. Teitell calls “storm chic” Etiquetteer has often referred to as “Yankee chic,” which at a minimum is a substitution of good sturdy boots for dress shoes, and can be expanded to include the substitution of more durable materials, if not forms, for business clothes. For instance, Etiquetteer wore this to the office between snowstorms last week:

Instead of a typical tropical-weight wool suit with leather shoes, Etiquetteer’s “Yankee chic” uniform is corduroy trousers, a thick wool sweater, and an oversize (to accommodate the sweater) khaki jacket. Barely visible is the wool necktie (one of the rare occasions you’ll see Etiquetteer without a bow tie). Author Paul Fussell deplored the middle-class nature of the V-neck sweater, which he claimed middle-class men wore to prove that they were wearing a tie. Etiquetteer can’t remember if that was in Class or BAD, and will have to look it up later. (That said, Etiquetteer doesn’t really agree with that hypothesis; there’s nothing wrong with the Perfectly Proper V-neck sweater.)

So, please be strong and dress warmly with Perfect Propriety. You’ll project hope for the swift coming of Spring . . . or, if not Spring, at least the swifter elimination of the snow.

Wedding Invitations, Vol. 14, Issue 6

February 7th, 2015 . by Etiquetteer

Dear Etiquetteer:

We have a couple of wedding invitation etiquette questions that we’re hoping you can help with.

First, we want to have a “cocktail welcome party” the evening before the wedding for all family, and for friends visiting from out of town. We are trying to figure out the best way to get this info to people. I think these are our options:

  1. Include this as part of the formal wedding invitation on a separate card, thereby just inviting everyone invited to the wedding.
  2. Include an additional card in some invitations that invites particular people to the cocktail party.
  3. Send out a separate invitation entirely to those invited.

The second is our favorite option but I’m not sure how much of a faux pas this would be to include a separate card in some invites and not others. Thoughts? Would it be better to just invite everyone? We’re just concerned about the number of people.

Second, do you have any thoughts about wording on the formal invitation itself for the reception? We want to include on the actual invitation that there will be “dinner and dancing to follow at —,” but also want it to be clear that this is immediately following the ceremony. Any way to do this without just putting the info on a separate card entirely, or is that our best bet?

Dear Happy Couple:

First, allow Etiquetteer to congratulate you on your coming marriage and wish you a long and happy life together. Your concern for others augurs well for a Happy Married Life!

Etiquetteer understands that your welcome cocktail party* is separate from the rehearsal dinner, to which Etiquetteer assumes only the wedding party and a smaller subset of family are invited. Before considering who to invite, let’s first restate your purpose in holding this party, which should direct us in compiling a guest list. You write you want to give a party before the wedding “for all family, and for friends visiting from out of town.” Using that guideline, the only wedding guests not invited are local friends. To Etiquetteer this seems perfectly sensible, though you may want to look at that list of local friends, and see if there isn’t anyone there with particularly close ties to an out-of-towner who’d be there. For instance, if one of you belongs to a college fraternity or sorority, Etiquetteer would recommend that all brothers and sisters invited to the wedding also be invited to the welcome cocktail party.

Including an additional card in your wedding invitation for this welcome cocktail party would be Perfectly Proper, as has been done for wedding receptions for many years. Once upon a time, an invitation to the wedding was more sought after than an invitation to the reception; how times have changed, alas!** But considering that this party is for out-of-town guests, many of whom will have to book airline flights well in advance, Etiquetteer would encourage you to consider sending a separate invitation. That way they can schedule their flights to arrive in time (if possible, given the state of the airlines). This separate invitation would not have to resemble the wedding invitation, and could even reflect the more casual nature of the party.

As to the reception invitation, you actually included the Perfectly Proper language in your question. Your invitation should read like this:

Mr. and Mrs. Fairleigh Freshness

request the honour of your presence

at the marriage of their daughter

Miss Dewy Freshness

to Mr. Manley Firmness

on [Insert Date Here]

at the Church of the Deity of Your Choice

35 Blissful Way,

Upper Crustington, Connecticut

and immediately following the ceremony at

the Taj-Ritz Seasons Hotel Club

222 Colonial Drive

Upper Crustington, Connecticut

In the bottom left corner, put “Dinner and Dancing” along with your dress code. You may not put “And don’t keep us waiting” after that.

Etiquetteer does understand that you’d like the wedding invitation to include the reception information, but encourages you to consider the separate reception invitation card.

*Please use “welcome cocktail party” instead of “cocktail welcome party.” Welcome as those cocktails may be, your purpose in giving the party is to welcome the guests, not the cocktails.

**Etiquetteer sometimes wishes it was Perfectly Proper to include on a reception invitation “It will be quite impossible to admit you to the reception if you did not attend the wedding ceremony first.”

More Blizzard Etiquette, Vol. 14, Issue 5

February 5th, 2015 . by Etiquetteer

The recent record-setting snowfall in New England has tested the Daily Dignity, as well as the Perfect Propriety, of everyone in the region - not least That Mr. Dimmick Who Thinks He Knows So Much. Is it Etiquetteer’s imagination, or were American better able to take things in stride a 30 years ago? Alas, Etiquetteer feels the need to share a few more tips to Get Through This:

  1. Recognize when a situation can’t be helped, and calm down. No one is to blame for the volume of snow that has fallen, or for the absence of someplace to put it. If you keep carrying on like that, Etiquetteer guarantees that someone will make a Splendid Suggestion about Where You Can Put It.
  2. Verbal complaining might or might not make you feel better, but it only raises the stress level for others present. Consider carefully whether or not your interjections help.
  3. Do your best not to inconvenience anyone else. If you move more slowly through the slippery sidewalks, step aside so others more fleet of foot may pass. If you’re standing in the subway door that opens, for heaven’s sake, step out onto the platform and allow others to leave. If you’re shoveling out, don’t fill up a neighbor’s freshly cleared property.
  4. Travel light. At times when the public transportation system is strained to ridiculous levels, going anywhere without a backpack is more than thoughtful. And if you must travel with hand luggage, its Perfectly Proper place is on the floor or your lap, not in a seat.
  5. As you continue to shovel now, as a reader helpfully pointed out, be sure to clear the fire hydrant nearest to your property. The home you save may be your own.
  6. Make light of your troubles where you can. Etiquetteer was deeply impressed by a pair of cheerful women, perhaps strangers until that moment, who managed to keep fellow subway travelers in their vicinity from going mad in the sardine-like crush by imagining the entire adventure was like taking a huge group portrait at a wedding.

In short, Etiquetteer asks you to remember the famous words “This too shall pass.”

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